Lit

The legacy of racism

Killing the Messenger explores Black Muslim ideology and the cycles of brutality

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steve@sfbg.com

The legacy of brutal racism in this country, particularly against African Americans, shapes the events of today. That's a notion that much of white America resists accepting, particularly conservatives. But actions create reactions, hatred begets hatred, and those cycles can roll forward endlessly and manifest in unpredictable ways.Read more »

What to Read: 'The World of Normal Boys' by K.M. Soehnlein

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Gay coming out novels are a dime a dozen. But The World of Normal Boys is something else. It’s a detailed, play-by-play exploration into the consciousness of a 13-year-old boy as he struggles to figure out who he is meant to be.

K.M. Soehnlein's book encapsulates all the pain and pleasure of growing up a little different, in a society still unsure of the benefits of diversity. Richard Labonte appreciated Soehnlein’s Lambda Award-winning literary effort for opening up the gate for a new type of coming out book – one that even though it’s set in a 1970s New Jersey suburb, it strikes a chord beyond its time and place.

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What to Read: ‘SoMa’ by Kemble Scott

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“Everyone you meet here in San Francisco has some anecdote about 'the wild night I ended up in SoMa,’” author Kemble Scott said back in 2007. Sure, the neighborhood has experienced a gentrified taming since then. The outdoor orgies of yesteryear have been replaced by outdoor patio furniture stores, but luckily the gritty South of Market spirit – a cornucopia of illicit drugs and sexcapades – has been cleverly captured by Scott, pen name of journalist provocateur Scott James, who now writes a local column for The New York Times.

SoMa follows the intertwined path of three young people struggling in San Francisco immediately after the first dot com bust. Unemployed and desensitized, they push their limits and their luck to try to regain a sense of fulfillment. SoMa is now an artifact of the oftentimes-surreal turn-of-the-century subcultures that were embedded in the neighborhood.

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The Performant: Science, Honor, Psychogeography

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The Phenomenauts and Alley Cat Books shoot for the moon.

Trapped in a world they didn’t create, the spacecraft-garage band known to us as The Phenomenauts must surely come from a more evolved time and place, as evidenced by the spiffiness of their natty uniforms -- and the electric jolt of their stage shows. As refinement and heroism (the band motto is “Science and Honor”) are qualities in tragically short supply among your run-of-the-mill rock groups, bands which contain both are bound to stand out, with or without the additions of attention-grabbing technical flourishes such as pinpoint lasers, billows of stage fog, and the custom-built Streamerator 2000, which shoots festive streamers of toilet paper out onto the frenetic crowd. Speaking of frenetic, I love a band that can make San Franciscans dance as if possessed by dervishes with hyperkinesis. For that feat alone, they deserve an intergalactic medal for courage in the face of cosmic indifference.

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Frilly werewolf

Christine Beatty is Not Your Average American Girl

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LIT "When you've lived so far like I have," Christine Beatty's wry voice came crackling through the phone as she drove to Las Vegas to play the slots, "you sometimes just have to catch your eye in the rearview mirror and laugh. I've led such a charmed life, really."Read more »

Snapped

YEAR IN MUSIC 2011: New photo book Murder in the Front Row looks back at the infancy of Bay Area thrash. Plus: top 10 metal albums of the year

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arts@sfbg.com

Year in Music "This is not a definitive history book," Murder in the Front Row author-photographer Brian Lew is careful to point out. "We wanted it to be more like a time machine."

Lew and his co-author, photographer Harald Oimoen, are not household names. Their photographs, on the other hand, are world famous. That's Oimoen's shot of Slayer, wreathed in smoke, on the back of Hell Awaits. Cliff Burton bending a string to the breaking point on the back of Metallica's Ride the Lightning? Oimoen again.Read more »

Rearview mirror

YEAR IN MUSIC 2011: It's a retromaniac's world, but lookin' back ain't so bad. Plus: the top 10 live shows of 2011

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emilysavage@sfbg.com

Year in Music "Out of all the records I've recorded, that was the worst experience," says prolific Dinosaur Jr. bassist and Sebadoh guitarist Lou Barlow. He's speaking of Bug, the classic, feedback opening alternative rock album Dinosaur Jr. released on SST in 1988.Read more »

Lit shorts: Cocker, on paper

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Mother, Brother, Lover
By Jarvis Cocker
Faber and Faber
208 pp., hardcover, $17

 
Books of lyrics — words uprooted from the music and set down naked on the page — are traditionally published with either self-congratulation or doubts by songwriters. Jarvis Cocker has some doubts.

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Lit shorts: 'Beck' by the book

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Beck
By Autumn de Wilde
Chronicle Books
176 pp., hardcover, $35

 
For more than a decade and half, pop culture photographer (and video director) Autumn de Wilde has chronicled Beck, the iconic songwriter and her personal friend, on tour, in the studio, and as he’s posed before the camera — the latter especially.

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You grow, girl?

BOOKS ISSUE: From Blair Witch to blazing weed -- Heather Donahue's book takes on the weed community

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caitlin@sfbg.com

HERBWISE The average celebrity autobiography follows an arc of learning and growing. The earnestly-made mistake — whether in the form of childhood shenanigan or adult infidelity — and then the ensuing redemption. But rarely do book-sized treatises emerge from the decision to leave the celebrity fold for the greener fields of bud agriculture. Leave it to the girl from the Blair Witch Project to produce that one.Read more »